Creator Q&A: Blip Festival 2009

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Chipmusic has had a wildly successful history with Kickstarter. First there was Kind of Bloop, an 8-bit tribute to Miles Davis that received 432% of its goal and became one of the first Kickstarter success stories. Then there was Soundbytes 5, an ongoing project supporting the Melbourne-based Soundbytes chipmusic festival that has been equally as victorious. Both received the kind of momentous support from their backers that is representative of the ideal Kickstarter model in action: turning a community of dedicated fans and followers into patrons.

Now it’s Mike Rosenthal’s turn to take up the Chipmusic crown with his project to fund New York’s Blip Festival 2009. The event, featuring live music, workshops, and video installations, has quickly become a focal point for the international chipmusic scene, with acts coming from all over the world to participate.  A third of the way to their goal — and with thirty days to go — Mike talked to us a bit about the festival, the music behind it, and how his project is going.

You can stream live recordings of last year’s Blip Festival here and watch video footage here. To support the project, head over to their page

Tell me about the festival! Where did the idea come from?

Well, the idea for the festival came from a series of chiptune shows we were doing at my performance space The Tank (in New York) in late 2003-2005. I was the experimental music curator at that space and had become friends with Bit Shifter (Josh Davis) and Nullsleep (Jeremiah Johnson), who introduced me to this music they made with Gameboys that they called Chiptune music. We booked a lot of shows together and one day they said there were gonna be these 8 amazing Japanese chiptune performers coming to NYC for vacation and could we book a show? I said if they are all gonna be here, lets do a festival! So we did. It has taken off from there. 

I’m personally interested in this re-appropriation of hardware for musical expression. It’s weirdly subversive and creative…these amazing composers, who could make awesome music on any instrumentation, are choosing to limit themselves in this unique way and really push boundries that they set for themselves…the endless variety of work that comes from that basic restriction I find fascinating. Plus the music is catchy and fun to dance to!

Are you particularly excited for anything happening in this year’s festival?

I’m excited to see Little-Scale (all the way from Australia) and to finally attend a Blip Festival after-party for the first time, mostly to see Random and Covox (two amazing Scandanavian chiptune artists) perform. We have an (informal/occasionally broken) rule to not repeat out-of-town performers year to year, just as a way to keep the line-up fresh and new. Having these two amazing guys play the after party is our way of getting to see them perform again without breaking our own rules (sneaky). 

What’s been your most popular project reward so far?

The cheapest ones of course! Though the $50 custom made visualist designed T-shirt is neck and neck with the $10 mp3 collection…

How have people’s responses been to the use of Kickstarter as a funding tool for the festival?

Actually, people have been pretty excited about it. This is a community in which everyone really supports each other. It’s a fringe art in a lot of ways, and sticking together has been an amazing way to make close friends. People see Blip Festival as THEIR festival, so people are rallying, which is awesome. 

Any closing thoughts?

I just wanted to say that Kickstarter is a fantastic idea for niche markets and independent artists and I think you will find a lot of great success with tapping into these types of communities. Good luck!

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